diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Postcards from Overground South

Brockley - Hilly Fields
When summer strikes, head to the hills. In Brockley - the only London suburb which sounds like a vegetable - that means Hilly Fields. A grassy bulge, reaching the giddy height of 50 metres above sea level, to which the local population are irresistibly drawn on a sunny day. There's a new playground for a start, where the kids can let off steam climbing on the timberframe or spinning in the sand. For those too young to even toddle, a parental pram-push round the perimeter has great appeal. Ice cream from the van, a kickabout on the slopes, or simply flop on the grass with the weekend papers until your skin burns red. It could be any London park, were it not for the panorama across town and the Millennial stone circle on the southeastern flank. When Brockley comes out to sizzle, somehow a hump with a view will always have the edge.
Brockley photo: Prams on the Hill
Brockley blog: the essential Brockley Central
Brockley Max: Arts festival starting next weekend. Features 'Hacienda on the Hill' on 5th June, and the delightfully bonkers 'Boxwalks on Roads in Brockley Beginning with B'.
Brockley psychedelia: Hilly Fields, by Nick Nicely (luvvit)

Honor Oak Park - The Oak of Honor
There is, or rather was, a famous tree in Honor Oak. Not just your normal tree, but a tree by royal appointment. Queen Elizabeth I came by this way with her courtiers on May Day 1602, and stopped for a picnic beneath the majestic oak on top of One Tree Hill. Presumably there was only the one tree at the time, but there are hundreds up and roundabout today. A delightful woodland walk ascends from Brenchley Gardens, up which you're more likely to see a squirrel than another human being. It's a tiring ascent - always a climb round one more corner than you're expecting - which makes it all the more impressive that a 67-year-old monarch ever got up to the top. Liz would have had an excellent view across Tudor London, including the pre-dome St Paul's Cathedral, although she'd not have recognised the City skyscraper cluster that treats modern visitors.
view from One Tree Hill
Her shady hilltop tree became known as the Oak of Honor, thereby giving its name to the locality. But the current oak is a 1905 replacement, planted by the Chairman of the Roads and Public Gardens Committee of the Camberwell Borough Council, and no royalty's been back for a picnic since.
Honor Oak photo: The Oak of Honor, May 2010
Honor Oak other stuff: ...or you could just go shopping.

Forest Hill - David's Road mural
Forest Hill photo: Here's that towpath mural I mentioned in Sunday's post about the Croydon Canal
Forest Hill blog: The Forest Hill Society

Sydenham - Lawrie Park Road
One of Sydenham's finer avenues, off the main drag but still close to the station, is Lawrie Park Road. It served the more prestigious suburbanites when the railways came, and its villas were just the sort of place where a celebrity cricketer might hang out. At number 7 lived Victorian beardy batsman William Gilbert Grace, better known by his initials W G. He was practising as a doctor at the time, welcoming the sick of the parish to feel the end of his stethoscope, although taking part in local sport interested him far more. Grace was a founder member of the London County Cricket Club who played first class cricket at Crystal Palace for five seasons at the turn of the century. He was also rather partial to lawn green bowls, which he practised more on retirement up the road in Mottingham. His Sydenham residence has been replaced by a bland residential block, enlivened only by a plaque and the streetname "Cricketer's Walk" alongside. The rest of the street retains its charm, but not its Grace.
Sydenham photo: Cricketers Walk, and its small WG Grace plaque
Sydenham art: Lawrie Park Avenue, as painted by Pissaro in 1871, now hangs in the National Gallery.
Sydenham website: Sydenham Town, for all things SE26

Crystal Palace - Dinosaur Court
Crystal Palace photo: Two non-scary Jurassic crocodiles
Crystal Palace Park: map / dinosaurs / official site

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